TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.
Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?
It’s a collection of 12 stories about people who try but often fail to live up to what they would say are their own moral standards, then have to face the consequences of those failures. The stories are loosely linked by character, setting, and the motif of a talking sugar bowl that appears in the work of a Russian fabulist author. My primary themes are fidelity, betrayal, self-delusion, and the power of hope.
Which story did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which story gave you the most trouble, and why?
I enjoyed writing the title story the most, because I wasn’t writing it with an eye toward publication. I wrote it for my husband after his father, who was a mathematician and mathematics professor, died. I wasn’t worried about whether I was being “too sentimental”; I didn’t care. And I think the not caring was what allowed me to write as freely as I did, and to come up with a story that meant something to me and my family personally, regardless of whatever might happen beyond that.
The story that gave me the most trouble was the longest one, “Sky Harbor,” which is almost a novella. It wasn’t the length I struggled with, but the final scene, because I wanted to render it in such a way that the reader might wonder even for an instant what’s real and what isn’t, just as my character does.
Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.
Not many if any lows—I’m always happy and grateful to have a book published! A high was having a manuscript that’s entirely new stories, because originally I’d set out to combine new stories with some favorites from my previous two collections.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
“Not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.” A Rollo May quote I came across when I was in college. Sometimes I even write the sentence at the top of my own pages to remind myself that feeling inspired isn’t a requirement for me to keep working. In the same vein, Mary Karr once reminded me that “Faith is not a feeling; it’s a set of actions.” Same thing. You can act, or write, without necessarily “feeling it.”
My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?
That I can write short short stories as well as long ones. And in some ways, it’s harder, as in that saying “I was going to write you a short note, but I didn’t have time, so I wrote you a long one.” Everything has to be distilled to that much sharper a degree. Now I’m writing short short stories almost exclusively, and though it’s difficult, it’s very rewarding when I feel that I’ve pulled it off.
What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?
A few of the stories in this collection came from an assignment to myself, which was to write stories without entering characters’ heads or hearts (because that is my default, inhabiting their internal landscapes). All the emotion in those stories have to be inferred from dialogue, gesture, or action. I hope I’ve succeeded; it was definitely an eye-opener for me, realizing how automatically I tend to say how someone’s thinking or feeling, when it can often be more powerful to let the reader discern those things from how the character behaves in the world.
Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)
The only food I can think of is a store-bought chocolate cake one of my characters steals from a car she walks by! I guess you’d have to ask the bakery at Stop & Shop for the recipe.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS AUTHOR: https://www.jessicatreadway.com/
ORDER THIS BOOK FOR YOUR OWN TBR STACK: https://bookshop.org/books/infinite-dimensions-stories/9781953002112
READ A STORY FROM THIS BOOK, “Kwashiorkor”: https://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/features/kwashiorkor/